Not everyone is in a rush to give up cash, and case studies from other countries give us insight on how to disrupt this trend, explores Ethan Nash.
“EFFECTIVELY CASHLESS” BY 2024
Australia is forecast to be 98 per cent cashless by 2024, as COVID-19 accelerates the growth of payment options like tap-and-go.
New data from financial payment giant FIS has forecast that in the next three years, cash payments will dwindle to just 2.1 per cent of all transactions.
That would place Australia as the fourth most cash-averse economy in the world, behind Sweden, Denmark and Hong Kong. According to the report:
“COVID-19 is accelerating the pace of cash’s decline faster than even the most bullish projections.
The decline of cash will be near total in some markets, falling to 2.1 per cent in Australia.”
“Australian consumers are ushering in a new dawn of commerce as they embrace modern ways to pay, consume and engage with businesses,” said Phil Pomford, General Manager APAC, Worldpay Merchant Solutions at FIS.
Australia’s eCommerce market is expected to grow from $47 billion in 2020 to almost $70 billion in 2024, with many Australians preferring to use debit cards for online purchases over cash for goods in store.
However, cash is not out of the fight yet, with a passionate portion of Australia’s population continuing to campaign for the protection of the legal tender.
Is this push the result of consumer choices, or is society being forced in this direction?
Outside of PR reports and mainstream propaganda, it seems like people are not ready to let go of cash just yet and are becoming fed up with vanishing options to use it.
THE PUSH BACK: TALKING POINTS
Woolworths cashless trial halted
Cash is not set to leave Australia without a fight and a variety of positive stories have circulated in recent months to demonstrate the pushback.
Next week, Woolworths is scrapping a trial of electronic-only payments across some of its stores, after customers criticised it for excluding people who prefer to pay with cash.
The cashless payment trial, which began in July last year, was expanded in October to include a total of 14 stores across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Woolworths claimed it made shopping “seamless” for inner-city customers. But some shoppers criticised the move on social media and threatened to boycott Woolworths.
Justin Nolan, Woolworths Metro general manager, confirmed the company would resume cash payments in all its Metro stores by March 10:
“Based on feedback from our customers, we can see we’ve moved ahead of current community expectations on cash and will be ending the trial.”
Nolan said despite most Metro customers choosing to pay with cards, cash remains important to others for “a whole range of reasons we didn’t fully appreciate”.
Another great story that follows the end of the cash ban legislative saga.
Cash ban defeated
A bill proposed by Australian lawmakers to ban the use of cash for transactions over $10,000 was defeated by a unanimous senate vote in December.
After more than a year of opposition from accounting groups, small businesses and the community at large, the bill was squashed and is yet to resurface.
CPA Australia tax experts said the government’s claim the ban was needed to deal with the ‘black economy’ simply didn’t take into account the effects it would have on small business.
Many saw it as infringing on fundamental rights to use cash, as well as an invasion on the privacy of their transactions. Wide concern from industries said bill would criminalise legitimate businesses, and they were correct.
It is clear people aren’t ready to give up on cash.
Even the RBA has acknowledged the pushback and need for cash to continue for now.
Reserve Bank admits cash still viable
Data from the Reserve Bank of Australia showed that in November 2019 — before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic — the share of in-person payments made in cash still accounted for 32 per cent of payments.
The RBA found that while contactless payments were snaring purchases less than $10 from cash, the Aussies who were defined as “heavy cash users” remained so.
“Despite the continued move away from cash and towards cards for in-person payments, the survey showed that some consumers still use cash intensively, and that the share of those doing so had declined only modestly over the previous three years.”
The report added: “The most common reasons for preferring cash were for budgeting or financial management purposes, and a preference for cash for smaller transactions.”
That’s right, even the RBA has to admit the staunch and passionate attitude of those who still wish to see cash continue long into the future. The power is with the people.
Opposers to the cashless society agenda are right to voice their concerns, and we only have to look to other countries who have treaded this digital path to find out it doesn’t work.
CASE STUDY – CASHLESS COUNTRIES, PROBLEMS AND OBSERVATIONS
‘No Cash Accepted’ signs are increasingly common in Australian shops, thanks to COVID-19.
Even before the the pandemic struck, though, we were well along the cashless path, with demand for coins halving between 2013 and 2019.
For the most part, Australians have taken cashless payments in their stride. A fully cashless society is often envisaged as inevitable.
But the experiences of Sweden and Zimbabwe, two very different countries that have gone much farther down the path to a cashless society, highlight the pitfalls of such thinking.
Sweden shows the need to safeguard access to cash. Zimbabwe shows the importance of the transition not being forced.
Let’s explore how these stories can help maintain the argument for cash.
Sweden’s cashless experience
Sweden was quick to move toward a cashless society.
In the decade to 2018, its central bank, the Riksbank, says the proportion of purchases in shops using cash dropped from about 40% to 13%. Now even panhandlers and public toilets take cards or a mobile payment system called Swish.
But the bloom started coming off Sweden’s cashless rose relatively quickly.
Over the past few years Swedes have been increasingly concerned about the elderly, those living in rural areas and people from migrant backgrounds being left behind by businesses switching to Swish no longer accepting cash.
Last year all but one of Sweden’s political parties supported new laws requiring Sweden’s major banks to continue to offer cash services across the country.
Remember: If Australia becomes ‘essentially cashless’ by 2024, we will end up with less accessibility to cash then even Sweden during this period.
Are we facing the same fate? Will existing pressures force a revert back past 2024?
Another highlight of the importance of grassroots action.
Now, let’s look to Zimbabwe for even more lessons of a cashless path.
Zimbabwe’s cashless experience
The lesson from Zimbabwe’s experience with cashless transactions is rather different. It’s about the importance of the move to cashless being voluntary, and occurring organically.
While the exact conditions (inflation) shaping Zimbabwe’s experience are unlikely to be replicated in Australia, it is nonetheless worth understanding for the broader moral.
In Sweden, the transition to cashless payments was overwhelmingly welcomed. In Zimbabwe, the change was mixed up with bigger economic travails.
It was neither wanted, nor particularly welcomed.
In Sweden, the transition to cashless payments has not fundamentally affected people’s concepts of money and value.
In Zimbabwe, however, the move toward cashlessness has been experienced as a disruption of pre-existing forms of economic life, rather than their seamless extension.
What remains is a country tainted by distrust in financial institutions and the value of all money, leading to increases in crime and genuine black market activities.
“Bad cash is better than good plastic!”, as one street trader in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe’s second-largest city) told me.
Another interesting case study to note, particularly from a social element, given the fact Australians are fighting back against what is perceived as a forced transition.
So, what is the solution moving forward?
Turning the tide in Australia
This crisis of trust in the very understanding of money is worth noting at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates our move to cashless transactions.
It seems the nature of human beings — living in the bush, elderly ignorance to technology and more — so far remains an obstacle that stands in the way of a cashless society.
Cash users are remaining stuck in their old habits, and this is a good thing.
Changes in everyday economic life brought about by the shift to cashless transactions have the potential to reshape how we understand money in unpredictable ways.
Take for a second think when pulling out your card. Take an extra five minutes to grab money from an ATM, before they all disappear. Try to spread these points with others.
We have the power to force a change, like Sweden. We can also learn from the story of Zimbabwe, and use this story to promote how cashless division can lead to social unrest.
Don’t be fooled by the propaganda. The protection of cash lies in the hands of the population, and these moves are only justified by the numbers of them choosing digital.
Let’s not give them a reason for justification. Use cash wherever you can.
The story is far more complex then the establishment would have you believe.
DISAPPEARING CASH: Alarming money prediction for 2024 | Yahoo! News
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